Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
It’s gotten to the point in days 7 and 8 of Fantastic Fest where it’s highly possible to find festivalgoers catching a snooze just about anywhere. I’m sure devoted attendee Elijah Wood crashed out in his corner of the bar near the entrance of the Highball. To be more efficient at this event, it is best to split up and cover more cinematic ground. So, that is exactly what we did for the last two days.
We were able to see several films that had fallen under our radar, because this is the festival where there could be a diamond in the rough at every corner.
The last two days consisted of the closing night film, BONE TOMAHAWK; encore screenings of GREEN ROOM, MAN VS SNAKE, CAMINO, THE INVITATION, SOUTHBOUND, THE CLUB, LAZER TEAM and THE MIND’S EYE. So if you were unable to catch the first showing or two, Fantastic Fest makes sure you didn’t miss the good stuff.
One film that we were unable catch before but caught in its reruns was the bizarre IN SEARCH OF THE ULTRA-SEX, a collection of bad porno stories all rolled into one bad porno narrative with some good dubbing. While it may sound a little crazy and uncomfortable to watch this with an audience, it was one of the highlights of the fest. Everyone was cracking up and having a great time. The movie isn’t all man-junk and boobs, it puts focus on the parts most people ignore while engaging in porn: the story.
Let’s face it, people just want the goods when it comes to porn. We can’t all be Andy (Steve Carell) from THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, skipping through the sex to watch the goofy story line. However, that’s exactly what filmmakers Nicolas Charlet and Bruno Lavaine did. Watching over 2,500 X-Rated films from the 70’s to the mid-90’s, Charlet and Lavaine assembled their own film by putting together a story about a pandemic that infects people with infinite lust. Hilarious, I know.
This is such a creative and intelligent – yeah, I said intelligent – way of mixing together porn with the approach that was taken in 2002’s KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST. If you handle all that, then the result is a sidesplitting and outrageous film. It also helps that the film is only 60 minutes long, so it hits the sweet spot (no pun intended).
Other small touches around the festival was Doug Benson Movie Interruption: ROAR. This event brought together comedian Doug Benson and a group of special guests to provide live commentary during a movie. But this isn’t just any live commentary– they can say whatever the hell they want. It’s like that one friend you bring to a crappy movie with you sometimes. He or she knows what makes you laugh and ultimately they make it a better movie, and that’s what these gents did.
ROAR proved to be the perfect selection this year, as Benson always knows what will bring the best out of him and his team. Audiences roared (now, that was a pun) with laughter and had a great time.
The closing night, of course, was BONE TOMAHAWK, starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Richard “T-Rex” Jenkins (that was a STEP BROTHERS joke). Now, while the world premiere last night was Kurt-less (suffering a non-life threatening injury and having to cancel his appearance), the rest of the gang closed the festival with a bang.
The audience seemed to enjoy the twisted violence of this story about a group of men who chase after a tribe of cannibalistic troglodytes who kidnapped a local woman and a town’s young deputy. Think UNFORGIVEN mixed with THE ROAD, but with a little more Tarantino blood.
Critics, however, were relatively mixed. IGN deemed BONE TOMAHAWK “a genre mash-up that deliver on both fronts… a two-hour blast that features great dialogue, strong characters, and imaginative and memorable kills.” While Film School Rejects said it had “terrible pacing,” needed more “edits, re-shoots and re-casting… fairly dumb.” So give the film a shot when it releases On-Demand later this month, and see which side of the fence you lean on.
From September 24 to October 1, we covered well over 30 films (look out for our “Best of the Fest” article on Monday of next week), and the verdict is that 2015 can be added to the Fantastic Fest history books. Good films, good times and good people. 2016, we’ll be back.
Fantastic Fest 2015: Award Winners:
Best Director: Alice Waddington for DISCO INFERNO